Fourth annual Briefs Festival showcases eight playwrights


Dr. Ken Haller, far left, Joan Lipkin and John Schmidt are participating in next week’s Briefs Festival. The trio talked to ‘Cityscape’ host Steve Potter, far right, about the event on Friday at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.

What do a gay mermaid looking for love, a Jewish mother who competitively wants her single son to have the biggest wedding, and a lesbian version of Dr. Seuss have in common?

They are all themes in this year’s Briefs Festival of Short LGBT Plays, a festival that brings together numerous directors and actors to showcase the work of eight different playwrights under one roof.

The eight plays being performed at the festival on March 27-29 at the Centene Center for the Arts have been selected out of more than 170 submissions from across the country.

On Friday, “Cityscape” host Steve Potter talked about the festival with Joan Lipkin, the festival’s co-producer and artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company; Dr. Ken Haller, a pediatrician and actor; and John Schmidt, a playwright and the winner of the Ken Haller Playwriting Competition for LGBTQ and Allied Youth.

Briefs: A Festival of Short LGBT Plays

  • When: 8 p.m. March 27, 2015; 4 and 8 p.m. March 28, 2015; 2 p.m. March 29, 2015; the Ken Haller Award Reception is 6:30 p.m. March 27, 2015.
  • Where: The Rialto Ballroom at Grand Center, 3547 Olive St., St. Louis
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

Vaccines, Outbreaks, and Personal Choice: Measles by the Numbers


Measles has not reached the St. Louis area this year, but that hasn’t kept it from stoking fears.

Local public health officials are encouraging parents to make sure their children’s vaccinations are up-to-date by checking with their individual health providers. With worries that last month’s outbreak in Disneyland could continue to spread, officials in Illinois are investigating the source of five infants diagnosed with measles at a day care center outside Chicago.

Though Illinois Senator Dick Durbin told a Chicago TV station that another suspected measles case had been identified in Madison County on Friday, the Illinois Public Health Department said they no longer consider it a potential case.

We decided to take a look at the numbers. In fact, vaccination rates are quite high for schoolchildren in both Missouri and Illinois—nearly every county in both states reported vaccination rates above 90 percent for most of the shots required by law.

Common reasons for non-vaccination include allergies, medical concerns, and religious objections. Children under the age of 1 are too young for the vaccine, and can be at risk during an outbreak. The map above includes children who have begun vaccinations, but are on a delayed immunization schedule.

How common are the measles?

Not very, but outbreaks have become more frequent.

644 cases of measles were reported in 2014, the most since the disease was declared eliminated from the US in 2000. More than a hundred cases were reported in January of 2015, most of them linked to an outbreak at Disneyland.

The abdomen of a patient with a measles rash.
Prior to widespread immunization, measles was common in childhood, with more than 90% of infants and children infected by age 12. Recently, fewer than 1,000 measles cases have been reported annually since 1993.

Over the past decade, outbreaks tend to be related to unvaccinated people contracting measles abroad, and spreading among communities of people who are not immunized.

95 percent of school children in the city of St. Louis are up-to-date with their immunizations, according to data obtained from the state of Missouri.

“It’s very disappointing that some parents choose not to vaccinate their children based on rumor and fear tactics, but it’s a very small percentage of people,” said St. Louis Health Department director Pam Walker.

Before vaccines were available, measles was quite common. The CDC estimates that between 3 and 4 million Americans contracted measles each year in the decade before the vaccine was developed, with up to 500 deaths a year.

By comparison, influenza killed 1,532 people in 2010, according to the CDC. (Pneumonia, which is often a complication of the flu, killed about 52,000).

What do measles feel like?

Dr. Ken Haller remembers getting the measles in 1962, at the age of 7.

“I remember being absolutely miserable for two weeks. My muscles were achey, I could barely swallow, the lights were too bright,” Haller said. “It’s just a really horrible disease.”

Today, Haller is a pediatrician at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. He says he often talks to parents to allay their concerns about the safety of vaccines, which often stem from a 1998 study linking the measles vaccine to autism, which was later debunked. He published a review of available research in 2012, which can be found here.



“We really want people go get vaccinated, and get kids vaccinated, because you’re not just protecting yourself, you’re protecting other vulnerable people,” Haller said.

Symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, a runny nose and watery eyes. After a few days, patients may develop a rash of flat red spots and small raised bumps. About one in 1,000 patients will develop inflammation of the brain, which can lead to a loss of hearing or permanent brain damage. The disease is fatal in about 1 in 1000 cases.

Mild reactions to the vaccine, such as a fever or rash, are relatively common. In extremely rare cases, children may develop a severe allergic reaction or other complications. Further information can be found on the CDC’s website.

Who isn’t vaccinated?

Missouri and Illinois allow two exemptions for non-vaccination when children attend school: medical and religious.

Children with immune diseases, blood disorders, or cancer are often unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons. Members of some religious sects, such as the Amish or Christian Scientists, sometimes oppose vaccination. (An outbreak among Christian Science students at Principia College in 1985 led to three deaths and a quarantine).

St. Charles-based chiropractor, Mackenzie Mcnamara, says her patients represent a range of opinions over the issue. Some choose to vaccinate, some choose not to, and others decide to vaccinate on a delayed schedule. Mcnamara separates herself from the ‘anti-vaccine movement,’ but says parents should be able to choose whether or not they vaccinate their child.

Measles are highly contagious, and the death rate if a person contracts the disease is 1 in 1000. But due to the abundant use of vaccines, deaths due to measles have been virtually eliminated in the U.S. Mcnamara says some parents worry about the possibility of side effects from the vaccine.

“Clearly there is a risk, and [parents] should be able to choose if they assume that risk with their child,” Mcnamara said. She adds that friends and clients have felt a sense of backlash against their opposition to vaccines since the outbreak in California.

“I think there’s a definite middle ground, I wish people would see that too,” Mcnamara said.

Follow St. Louis Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren on Twitter, @durrieB. 

‘We Need People Working Together’: Discussing Protests, Evidence And How To Talk To Children


Ferguson and St. Louis residents are trying to cope with and understand a grand jury’s decision not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the August death of Michael Brown, and the response, sometimes violent, to that decision.

Wednesday on “St. Louis on the Air,” we discussed an upcoming march organized by the NAACP; protests in St. Louis; the response in Washington, D.C.; the grand jury evidence and how to talk about Ferguson and protests with children.


  • Cornell William Brooks (@CornellWBrooks), NAACP president and CEO, will talk about the Journey for Justice march that starts Saturday.
  • Dr. Ken Haller Jr. (@KenHallerMD), a pediatrician and associate professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, will discuss how to talk to children about events related to Ferguson.
  • St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay (@MayorSlay) will discuss the city’s response and plans.
  • Jim Howard (@jimhoward529), St. Louis Public Radio’s Washington correspondent, will update us on the Department of Justice investigation.
  • St. Louis Public Radio reporters Camille Phillips (@cmpcamille) from protests in downtown St. Louis, and Chris McDaniel (@csmcdaniel) and Rachel Lippman (@rlippmann) who have been combing through grand jury evidence.

How To Talk To Your Children About The Boston Marathon Bombings


ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – Dr. Ken Haller has some answers for parents of young children.

‘This is not something they can comprehend,’ says Dr. Ken Haller a SLUCare Pediatrician at Cardinal Glennon Medical Center. ‘That’s why it’s really a good idea to keep them away from these images as much as possible.’

Haller is referring to children five years of age and younger.

While he’s the expert when it comes to children, you’re the expert when it comes to your own.

‘It really is important to know where your kid is coming from and what their concerns are,’ says Haller.’ ‘Then as a parent you can reflect back on it and how awful you feel and that it is kind of scary.’

Dr. Haller recommends turning off the images from Boston and playing a game, baking some cookies or reading a book with your child.

‘But it’s also okay to reassure kids that something like this is extremely rare,’ says Haller. ‘It just doesn’t happen very much. And that’s why it is news, because it is so unusual and that’s why we pay attention to it.’

Dr. Haller says small children can be affected emotionally by yesterday’s bombing in Boston.

This is why he recommends letting your kids know that you as a parent or someone will be there if tragedy strikes.

‘This is an opportunity to maybe come up with a family plan?’ asks Patrick Clark.

‘Exactly,’ says Haller. ‘At times like this you want to discuss with your kids, ‘Where would we go?’ This can be a time to talk about something that is unrelated that is still important. If there’s a fire in the house where are our escape plans and where do we meet?’

Dr. Haller says discussing contingency plans gives children a little more power in their world and beyond.

Meningitis symptoms discussed

By Bill Raack, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – The death of a high school senior in Wentzville yesterday from bacterial meningitis has health officials reminding parents to be on the look out for symptoms of the disease.

Eighteen-year-old Eric Hamilton had complained of feeling ill just last Thursday.

Bacterial or meningococcal meningitis is a rare infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord that can strike quickly. Cardinal Glennon pediatrician Dr. Ken Haller says the symptoms can be confused for the flu.

“Fever, headache, difficulty with exposure to light, what’s called photophobia, people don’t want to be around the light, neck pain, stiff neck and stiff shoulders,” Dr. Haller said. “Vomiting can be part of it too because as pressure increases inside the skull and the central nervous system, that can cause nauseous and vomiting.”

Dr. Haller says germs can be spread through secretions in the nose or throat and are transferred by close contact like coughing, sneezing and kissing.


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